- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 23, 2005

The first issue

Pundit Gloria Borger says the White House and congressional Republicans are poised for a big victory on tort reform.

“First issue out of the box is tort reform on Capitol Hill,” she said yesterday on the “The Chris Matthews Show” on NBC. “Talked to Democrats this week. They believe the president — they’re sad to say it — is going to get a big win … on curbing class-action lawsuits, and they say it’ll be downhill after.”

Social butterfly

Justice Antonin Scalia appears to have an edge over Justice Clarence Thomas to be the next chief justice, if the ailing William H. Rehnquist steps down, James Carney and Matthew Cooper write in the latest issue of Time.

“‘The idea of appointing the first African-American chief justice has undeniable appeal to the president,’ says a top Republican who informally advises the White House on judicial nominations. ‘But there’d be a huge fight over Thomas, and the president doesn’t need a fight.’ Though Scalia’s conservatism irks many Democrats, he was confirmed easily by the Senate in 1986, and would probably be confirmed again without too much trouble,” the reporters wrote.

“Yet Scalia does not have a lock on the job. According to several sources familiar with White House thinking on judicial nominations, the president and his advisers are worried that the tart-tongued justice may not have the people skills to manage the court, build consensus among its nine members and represent the institution in public. That may explain why the famously dyspeptic Scalia has become a merry mainstay on the A-list Washington social circuit of late.

“At parties ranging from a charity dinner at the Kuwaiti embassy two weeks ago to an Inaugural lunch at D.C.’s chic Cafe Milano, guests have been surprised to find the once-reclusive Scalia mixing with the city’s power brokers, making small talk and telling jokes. ‘Lately, I’ve been running into Nino everywhere,’ says a friend and fellow lawyer. ‘He’s showing that he actually can be charming and gregarious. It’s a sign that he’s really interested in the job.’”

Irrational thinkers

“Leftists have invested so much in discrediting George W. Bush that their fervor has inhibited their abilities to think rationally,” Daniel J. Flynn writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com), referring to charges that Republicans stole the election in Ohio, if not other places.

“Pre-election taunts of ‘accidental president’ and ‘re-defeat Bush’ allowed the Bush haters to benefit from the illusion that they represented majority opinion. Nov. 2, one might think, would have shattered that illusion. It didn’t,” said Mr. Flynn, author of “Intellectual Morons: How Ideology Makes Smart People Fall for Stupid Ideas” and editor of www.flynnfiles.com.

“Today’s comforting myth is sure to deliver real pain in the future. If one fails to even accept defeat, how can one identify the problems that led to defeat? Since the problems that brought on John Kerry’s Election Day loss are in no small part due to the left, concluding that the Massachusetts senator was never in fact defeated relieves leftists of the necessity to look inward critically.”

Mr. Flynn added: “Thirty-five years ago, Pauline Kael of the New Yorker famously wondered how Richard Nixon could have won re-election when everyone she knew voted for [George] McGovern. Current theories explaining how John Kerry was cheated out of the White House similarly betray more about their exponents than they do about the fairness of the election.”

Don’t go there

During coverage of President Bush’s inaugural parade Thursday, a historian raised a subject Dan Rather would rather not discuss, the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mediaresearch.org

“On CBS, Dan Rather wanted to know if there has ‘been any American president in a time of war who has asked for as little sacrifice as President Bush has done?’ As he sat at the same table with Dan Rather, who just months ago delivered a hit job on Bush based on forged documents, historian Joseph Ellis stressed how there are plenty of scandals which could imperil Bush’s second term since as ‘a lame duck … the press is really out to get you. And they can get you if they want to get you. And they’re going to go after him. You can already start to see it. And what the press defines as a scandal becomes a scandal.’

“Rather quickly switched topics. Later, however, after CBS reporter Thalia Assuras insisted that along the parade route the ‘majority have been at this point booing the president,’ Rather came to Bush’s defense and countered that ‘overall and in the main, this is a friendly, even jubilant crowd.’”

Another challenge

Washington state’s Republicans, still pressing their court challenge to the disputed governor’s election, have filed a separate challenge with the state Legislature.

“We did this to cover all our bases,” said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Dino Rossi, the Republican who narrowly won the original vote count and a mandatory recount. In a hand recount, he lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire by 129 votes out of 2.9 million cast.

Mrs. Gregoire was sworn into office Jan. 12.

Republicans have filed a legal challenge in Chelan County Superior Court against the hand recount, saying mistakes were made and calling for another statewide vote. That same challenge was filed with the Legislature Friday evening, “as an insurance policy,” Miss Lane said Saturday.

Looking ahead

Less than a month into a new, two-year Congress, the line is forming among House members considering their next career moves.

Republican Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho is all but officially running for governor of his state, and GOP Reps. Jim Nussle of Iowa and Jim Gibbons of Nevada both seem headed in the same direction in theirs, Associated Press writer David Espo reports.

All three have filed paperwork signaling interest in running.

“We will run a vigorous campaign,” said one former Idaho governor, Phil Batt, leaving no doubt about Mr. Otter’s intentions.

Mr. Nussle and Mr. Gibbons say they expect to make announcements in the next few months about their plans.

Money for life

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has designated $5 million of the two-year budget that he will propose to the state Legislature tomorrow to fund nonprofit organizations that counsel pregnant women on prenatal care, discourage abortion and encourage adoption for those uncertain about raising a child, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

“A truly just society respects life,” the Republican governor told more than 2,000 people gathered Saturday for a pro-life rally outside the state Capitol in St. Paul.

The legislation would dedicate 20 percent of the $5 million for the Minnesota Department of Health to develop a public-information campaign about the development at various stages of gestation and promotion of healthy pregnancies, adoption and other abortion alternatives.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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